Richard Watts | ArtsHub

Artists and arts workers across the country are mobilising to highlight the fact that the arts matter to Australia.

Banner drops at high-profile arts venues, a ‘do read the comments’ campaign encouraging artists and arts lovers to interact with anti-arts comments posted on mainstream media websites, and a demonstration outside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s electoral office in Edgecliff (NSW), are among the events planned for a sector-wide National Day of Action this Friday, 17 June.


The day has been organised by The Protagonists, a collective of artists and arts workers operating across and between disciplines, and has the support of a range of industry representatives.

‘We want to draw attention to the complete lack of arts policy from the Liberal Government’, said a spokesperson for The Protagonists, Bek Conroy.

Read: Coalition fails to deliver arts policy

‘The National Day of Action was also a response to the recent defunding of organisations by the Australia Council for the Arts,’ she continued.

‘Before those results came through we really didn’t know just how many organisations would be defunded. Now we know that it’s substantial organisations that have been around for a long time and which actually do a lot of heavy lifting in the arts ecosystem and it’s threatening to destabilise the entire small to medium arts sector.’

Read: 65 organisations lose funding from Australia Council

Conroy said the day was also part of a longer term plan to encourage artists and arts-workers to become savvier about the future of the arts in Australia.

‘Everyone’s thinking of leaving. There’s a lot of indication that there’s a haemorrhaging of good talent from the country because it’s already too expensive to live here … and now with the cuts to funding that are really impacting on independent artists most heavily, it doesn’t really make much sense to remain here in Australia,’ she told ArtsHub.

Additional actions are expected to take place for the following two weeks leading to up the election, with the campaign designed to remind politicians and the general public alike of the scale and value of the arts in Australia.

‘We’re hoping to send a really strong message to the broader community that the arts matter,’ said Conroy.

As well as employing more people than the mining sector and contributing significantly to the economy, the National Day of Action and subsequent campaign aims to remind people that ‘the arts matter’.

‘The slogan we worked on with a broad [sector] cross-section … was “art changes lives” and we want that to be the message – it is more than just “jobs and growth” and the economy, though the arts do contribute to that. It’s about having a meaningful existence … that’s the role the arts play, and at the moment that’s very impoverished,’ Conroy said.

In the coming weeks, postcards will be handed to visitors at national and state galleries, contemporary art spaces, university galleries, commercial galleries and art schools asking them to take action; and audiences and art lovers will be encouraged to sign a petition and post on social media about their support for the arts.

The campaign will also encourage art lovers to speak to their local federal member, write to politicians from all parties, and vote for the candidates with the best arts policies on 2 July.

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, Director of Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art said, ‘All of us working in the arts know the impact that they have on people’s lives. Over $11m people a year visit galleries and museums – we are calling on all our supporters to stand up for the arts and make their voice heard.’

Read: How art changes lives ​

Tamara Winikoff OAM, Executive Director of NAVA said, ‘The arts are part of everyone’s life. They are as essential to our intellectual and emotional well-being as health care and education. If we are talking jobs and growth, the creative industries contribute $50 billion to our economy and employ more people than agriculture, construction or mining. It needs to be well and truly high up on the election agenda. On the National Day of Action for the Arts we will be reminding people that voting is an art.’

Patrick McIntyre, Director of Sydney Theatre Company stressed that the sector needs to understand itself better.

‘Statistics reveal that Australians from all walks of life are highly engaged in the arts, both as makers of art and enjoyers of art. But this stubbornly refuses to enter our public myth-making and national identity, creating the false impression that there are no votes in the arts,’ he said.

‘There are plenty of votes in the arts. We need to make this support known so that a strong, bi-partisan political commitment to cultural investment is ensured for the coming generations.’

Visit this site to sign the petition and lend your support.

For more information about the campaign on social media, follow: